Sunday, April 17, 2011

Vratsa Climbing Region

Тhe region of Vratsa is the largest for rock climbing in Bulgaria. The cliffs are interesting for both sport and traditional climbers. Currently around Vratsa there are 11 crags, with more than 350 climbing routes.
The city of Vratsa is 120 km away from Sofia. It is situated at the base of the western Balkan Mountains (Stara Planina) and the region is known with numerous cliffs, waterfalls and caves. The rocks around have the potential for lot of rock climbing routes. The region is interesting not only for the climbing but also for all kinds of outdoor activities such as speleology, biking, paragliding and hiking.
The western part of Stara Planina has special geological features. The rocks around Vratsa are composed of Jurassic and Cretaceous limestone, whose strata are mostly upright. As a result of the tectonic processes there are typical forms like corners and cracks. Under the influence of the flowing water and the carbon dioxide in the air karst processes are occurring which makes the rock relief interesting and varied. This creates favorable conditions for climbing and depending on your taste and preferences you can choose between climbing overhanging sport routes up to 8c and traditional routes up to 400 m long.

Geological characteristics

Within the limits of Vratza mountain in NW-SE direction is elevated a big convoluted structure, named Zgorigrad anticline. It has a clear north vergation along its entire length. Its width on the meridian of Vratza town is about 7km and its length is about 30 km. The axis of the Zgorigrad anticline is sinuously twisted. NE leg of the anticline in this area is the clearly seen Vratza flexure. The narrow pass Vrattzata is shaped by Leva River in the limestone, forming its NE leg. There it is erected and towards Vratza town it even lies down in NE direction. Immediately North of Zgorigrad village the layers of lower and middle trias period go down under an angle of 60-70 degrees. The depositions from the late trias period and part of the late ura period are already upright and north of there the late ura sediments are with reversed layers and submerge abruptly to SW. In the South peripheries of the town the layers of the early creda are reversed and go down to SW under an angle of 50-55 degrees.

This discloses the character of a relatively rare flexure curve.

The rocks disclosed by the Vrattzata pass are build up in the late ura and early creda period. These are carbonate rocks (limestone), which are divided into two groups - the one of Glojene and the one of Brestnica. The Glojene group is disclosed immediately south of Vrattzata pass. It is represented by thick-layered to monolithic limestone with gray and dark gray color. Occasionally inclusions of biodetrit are seen. In a gradual transition above the Glojene group is situated super-possitionally the Brestnica group. On the rocks of this group in the region of Zgorigrad massif, the Central face and SE of it are lined the climbing routes. It consists of massive gray to light gray limestone with biodetrit and intraclasts. Some parts of the rocks are build of bentous organisms - seaweed, corrals, clams.

Another interesting fact for region of the Central face is that here is the boundary between two systems - Ura and Creda. It is in the upper part of the Brestnica group. And it lies North of "Chaika" restaurant. The uniform litologic composition of the rocks and the prevalence in them of bentous organisms makes difficult the detailed and precise discernment of the cut


An anecdote among the climbers says that if it is not hot here it will definitely rain - there is no somewhere in the middle. And really the rainy days aren't a few. Because of the fact that the whole region is built by limestone there is no water near the rocks except for the source in the Vrattzata pass and the "Small hole". When going for long ascents water should be taken. It is better to wait for a short rain to stop and continue the climb afterwards, since the rock dries up quickly. However, when a more continuous rain occurs it is reasonable to abandon the route.

The best time to climb here is during the spring and autumn months.

Spring. Between April and June the climbing conditions are very good. The temperatures in April are still relatively low (early in the morning they can reach the 0 level) and in June they are quite high (up to 30 degrees Celsius). May is very rainy. The whole period can be described as suitable for climbing.

Summer. It is extremely hot here in the summer (up to 40 degrees) and bearing this temperature is hard. A heat stroke may easily occur. Sometimes it is possible to have temperature for nice climbs. The different exposition of the faces gives the opportunity to choose shady areas

Autumn. This the other most popular climbing season for Vratza along with the spring. After mid October the rainy days are becoming more. However, there always are nice climbing days until mid November.

Winter. In the winter the temperatures are below the 0 and there often is a snow cover. In general winter climbs are rarely made in the area. However, in the winter of 1979/1980 Ciril Doskov and Valeri Peltekov realized in winter conditions (with snow cover) ascents of the routes "The fang" and "The Mirrors" (the second one for 2 days with the use of crampons). Their opinion was that these climbs were harder than the winter ascents of the north faces in Rila and Pirin. Some winters are very mild and there are days when it's warm enough for climbing.


Most of the climbing routes in the entire area go along fissures, opened along the layers surfaces. They are usually open and for belay are needed friends, wallnuts and wider pegs. Another group of routes go on the layer's surfaces themselves using cracks directed across the layers (the routes the "Mirrors", "Jubileen"). Most of them are closed, smooth surfaces, which makes the necessary the use of narrower pegs. Under the action of the erosion some widely opened layer's surfaces are eroded in depth (route "Mihail Hergiani"). The limestone there is softer and breakable.

In general for the climbing area Vrattzata can be said that it's very interesting and is characterized with diverse rock shapes, demanding the use of all types of climbing and diverse gear - wallnuts, friends etc. Wallnuts are used more often in comparison with the friends, because the cracks are rarely with nice, smooth sides. Many times you may come across smooth slabs with small pockets as well as rings. Sometimes they can be used for belay by running a sling through them.

Another characteristic of the massif is that it has much vegetation - trees, bushes and grass. Some of the trees can be used for belay but most of them (as well as the bushes and the weeds) only fill up the forms of the rock, impede climbing and are at least unpleasant. However, there are some exceptions. For example the massif of "Hergiani". Most of the new routes are swiped as well as the massifs that became "Climbing gardens" - "The Small Vrattza", the section next to the road of the Vrattzata pass, "The Small Hole", "The Big Hole".

The rock is generally solid. The rocks that form the ridges are more breakable. Some danger of rock falls exists for the routes, which are near to gullies and to chimneys. (For example the routes "The Chimneys", "The Rainbow").

In the past while climbing in hot weather of dusty routes appeared the so-called "Vratza pimple". It is a rash noticeable mainly on the areas of the body, which tend to have contact with the clothing. However, it doesn't happen very often. As a precaution try to avoid contact with the bushes and the grass.

On these rocks you may see the most dangerous European snake - the ashy snake. It is recognizable with its small horn. If a bite occurs it's necessary to go for medical treatment. Many times you will see lizards on the rock, which are absolutely harmless. Other dwellers in the area are the goats. They can reach exceptionally difficult for approach places. Sometimes they can cause rock falls originating from the sliding stones above the climbing areas.

  • Zgorigrad Wall -
    Height - 200m.
    Routes of category between IV and VII (UIAA).

  • Central Ridge- 
    Height - 45-250m.
    Routes of category between IV and VIII (UIAA).

  • Central Wall -
    Height - 350m.
    Routes of category between IV and IX (UIAA).

  • Bottom Central Massif-
    Height - 80-150m.
    Routes of category between III and IX (UIAA).

  • Massif "Zabat" (The Tooth)-
    Height - 80-120m.
    Routes of category between III and IX (UIAA).

  • East Massif-
    Height - 120-150m.
    Routes of category between IV and VIII (UIAA).

  • Vrattsata-
    Height - 50m.
    Routes of category between III and IX (UIAA).

  • Many new Sport Climbing Areas
                                                                For guides go to the link section:   

Vratsa Rocks are a part of the Stara Planina Mountain. This is the biggest limestone climbing-region in Bulgaria. Because of the easy access and the variety of the routes the area is most visited especially in the spring and autumn. This area is the best-equipped big climbing region in Bulgaria. There you will find long alpine routes (350m) as well as both long and short sport routes. During resent years have been developed new sport climbing areas. Every year in the Vratsa Rocks region take place assembly for cleaning and re-equipping of the old routes as well as lectures on demands of technical equipping and re-equipping. On the other hand the region is interest and picturesque.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Rhodope Mountains - Hiking heaven

The climate in this part of the Rhodopes is extremely favorable compared to other mountains in the country. The winter is long but mild, with lots of snow. The average mountain temperatures for January are between 7°C and -2°C. The snow lasts until the end of May on the northern slopes of Mt. Perelik and the highest ridges, providing excellent conditions for winter sports. Summer is cool here. The highest average temperatures for July can reach 18-19°C.

Compared to other mountains, the Rhodoppes have the least number of days with strong wind and fog. The region boasts the highest number of sunny days and clear nights. This is the reason for the building of a national astronomic observatory near Rozhen in 1981.
A large part of the especially the resort of Pamporovo and the village of Stoikite, experience a unique natural phenomenon - a negative air ionization, which is extremely favorable to human health, believed to give new strength and energy.

Thick coniferous forests on the mountaintops produce the so-called phytoncides, which makes the air especially good for people suffering from asthma and chronic diseases of the upper respiratory system.

Geomorphological review of the region
The Rhodopes are a unique system of mountain ridges and deep river valleys. According to geological features, they divide in two subzones - Western and Eastern Rhodopes. This guide regards the eastern part of The Western Rhodopi Mountains, which is also known as the Middle Rhodoppes. The make up of the mountain ridges in the mid part of the Rhodoppes is comprised of granite plutonium and - above it - prepaleozoic and Paleozoic metamorphic rocks. At a number of places, these are covered by paleogenic sea deposits (sandstone, conglomerates) and volcanic rocks.
Here you can find the highest peak in the Rhodopes - Mt. Golyam Perelik (2191 m above sea level).
The river valleys and gorges that cut into the rocks are wild and impressive. Best known among them are the Trigrad and Buinovsko Gorges, thecanyons in the upper course of the Vacha River, and others. Cracked rhyolite in the shape of various prisms has formed vertical rock walls - real rhyolitic peaks in gray-and-pink colors - above the town of Smolyan, bearing names such as the Big Wall, the Small Wall, the Bride and Turlata.

In the areas of paleogenic lake deposits, there are conditions for the sliding of volcanic rhyolite, which predetermines the appearance of the famous Smolyan Lakes, close to the town of Smolyan.

        Natural sites 
Chudnite Mostove
(The Wonderful Bridges)
The unique rock formation, covering an area of 40,3 hectares, can be found along the course of the Aidarsko Dere River, under the Ridge of Chernatitsa. The bridges are most probably the result of an ancient cave collapsing in an earthquake. The river has carried away most of the smaller rock debris. In time, atmospheric processes have shaped the two natural marble bridges of extraordinary beauty.
The bigger bridge is 12-15 m in width and 96 m in length, with an opening 45 m deep and 43 m wide. About 200 m down the ravine, there is the second bridge, which is 60 m long.
At an average of 1,450 m above sea level, the site is easily accessible all year round. The road leading to it is a deviation of the Asenovgrad-Smolyan road, passing by the village of Zabardo.
Signed tourist trails connect it with the village of Zabardo and the huts of Kabata, Skalnite Mostove, Persenk and Izgrev. The tourist lodge of Chudnite Mostove is right next to the upper Rock Bridge, while the Skalnite Mostove Hut lies 1.5 km up the road.

Trigradsko Zhdrelo
(The Trigrad Gorge)
This impressive gorge, with its 250m high walls, is one of the largest and most attractive karst formations in Bulgaria and serves as an inviting attraction for rock climbers. This region is home to more than 150 caves. The most famous of which is the precipitous Devil's Throat Cave. If you want to experience something really adventurous, go for the
Buynovsko Zhdrelo
(The Buynovsko Gorge)
The gorge is located on both sides of the Buynovska River, a tributary of the Vacha River. Soon after the deviation at the village of Teshel, the rocks narrow over the river, forming an impressive gorge.
The turbulent mountain waters have cut their way through the limestone rocks creating a natural site of unique beauty in the Rhodopes. The sheer cliffs come so close together that it seems easy to jump from one to another. The spot where rocks almost meet has been called by local people "the Wolf's Jump".

The Yagodinska Cave
The Yagodinska Cave is the ''pearl in the crown'' of the Rhodope Mountains. It is 10 km long, and 5 stories tall, with many labyrinths and abysses inside. Visitors enter the cave through an artificially dug opening, while the natural entrance is 30 m above. A special path through the cave offers the opportunity to see the wonderful underground world formed in the course of millions of years. Electric lights make the mysterious formations: raperies, pipe-like stalactites, cave pearls, ''leopard's skin'' and hanging stalactone visible along with many others. The upper floor was well-known to ancient Eneolithic inhabitants.

The Lednitsata Cave

The cave is near the village of Shiroka Luka. It is over 1,400 m in length and is the fifth deepest cave in Bulgaria. An underground river flows through the cave bottom. For millions of years, underground forces have created wonderful cave formations. In order to reach the bottom, one has to pass 46 waterfalls. The name of the cave (Icy Cave) is related to an interesting natural phenomenon: in the summer, due to the circulating air, a huge ice stalactone grows in the first cave hall.
The cave has not been adapted for tourists and it can be visited only with a special equipment and experienced guides!

 The Wild Life of the Rhodopes

 Although inhabited for thousands of years, the Rhodopes still harbor in their bosom wild places that seem to be untouched by humans. The Rhodopes are one of the few mountain ranges in Europe where the Brown Bear and Wolf still breeds. Old-growth forests are home to deer, elk, fox, wild goat, and other rare European species.
The Eastern part of the Rhodopes is a true heaven for bird lovers but the western part should not be overlooked as it contains over 200 species, many of them quite rare. The Trigrad Gorge is the kingdom of the famed Wallcreeper - you can observe this wonderful bird while sipping your coffee at the entrance to the Devil's Throat Cave.
Dippers and King Fisher will dart around you as you walk along clear creeks and streams. A Golden Eagle hovering high in the sky presents an unforgettable sight. If you come to the Rhodopes during spring you might hear the early-morning mating call of the Capercaillie.
Lush, grassy meadows pop into mind when thinking of the Rhodopes.
For many centuries locals have kept herds of sheep, as a result of which, they have created meadows outrests.
These meadows now are home to an abundance of rare flowers, many of which are not found anywhere else on Earth.
In early spring you can see the pink petals of Silivriak (Heberlea rhodopaensis), the symbol of the Rhodopes, which has the unique quality of being able to spring back to life even after being pressed for years. Legend has it that the flower bloomed out of the blood of Orpheus after he was dismembered.
The Rhodopes are also well known for their mushrooms. Here you can also pick yourself a multicolored bouquet of herbs; the most fragrant thyme grows here.

If you are still not convinced that the Rhodopes are a slice of true, wild nature, then the only other option that remains is for you to come here and see it for yourself.



Monday, April 11, 2011

Balkan mountain - Stara Planina

                                                      Balkan mountain

 The Balkan mountain range (Bulgarian and , Stara planina, "Old Mountain") is a mountain range in the eastern part of the Balkan Peninsula. The Balkan range runs 560 km from the Vrashka Chuka Peak on the border between Bulgaria and eastern Serbia eastward through central Bulgaria to Cape Emine on the Black Sea. The highest peaks of the Stara planina are in central Bulgaria. The highest peak is Botev (2,376 m), located in the Central Balkan National Park (established 1991). The mountain gives the name of the Balkan Peninsula. Stara Planina played an enormous role in the History of Bulgaria and the development of the Bulgarian nation and people.

In earlier times the mountains were known as the Haemus Mons. Scholars consider that Haemus (Greek 'Aimos) is derived from an unattested Thracian word *saimon, meaning 'mountain range'. Other names used to refer to the mountains in different time periods include Aemon, Haemimons, Hem, Emus, the Slavonic Matorni gori, the Turkish Kodzhabalkan and Balkan.
The term "balkan" however, is Persian in its origin, brought into southeastern Europe by the Turkic peoples from Central Asia. The term stands for 'rolling hills' (from Persian, Barkhwan/Barkhan/Balkhan). In places like Turkmenistan and the eastern shores of the Caspian Sea one still encounters this name, such as the Balkan Peninsula and the Balkan Province in Turkmenistan.

Stara Planina is remarkable for its flora and fauna. Edelweiss grows there in the region of Kozyata stena. Some of the most striking landscapes are included in the Central Balkan National Park with steep cliffs, the highest waterfalls in the Balkan peninsula and lush vegetation. There are a number of important nature reserves such as Chuprene, Kozyata stena and others. Most of Europe's large mammals inhabit the area including the brown bear, wolf, boar, chamois, deer.

In geological term Stara Planina is a young mountain. It is part of the Alp-Himalayan chain which stretches across most of Europe and Asia. It can be divided into two parts: the main Balkan Chain and the Pre-Balkan which follows the main chain to the north. To the north the Pre-Balkan slightly goes into the Danubian Plain, while to the south the mountain borders with the Sub-Balkan valleys - a row of 11 valleys running from the border with Serbia to the west to the Black Sea to the east which separate the Balkan mountains from a chain of other mountains known as Srednogorie which include Vitosha and Sredna Gora.

The range consists of around 30 portions called mountains. Stara Planina can be divided into three sections:
Western Stara Planina from Vrashka Chuka at the border with Serbia to the Pass of Arabakonak with a total length of 190 km and highest peak Midzhur (2,169 m).
Central Stara Planina from Arabakonak to the Vratnik Pass with a length of 207 km. Botev Peak (2,376 m) which is the highest in the range is located in that section.
Eastern Stara Planina from the Vratnik Pass to Cape Emine with a length of 160 km and highest peak Balgarka (1181 m). Eastern Stara Planina forms the lowest part of the range.

Stara Planina forms a water divide between the rivers flowing to the Danube in the north and those flowing to the Aegean Sea in the south. However, it is crossed by Bulgaria's widest river, the Iskar, which forms the spectacular Iskar Gorge. Rivers which take their source from Stara Planina and flow northwards to the Danube include Timok, Archar, Lom, Tsibritsa, Ogosta, Skat, Vit, Osam, Yantra, Rusenski Lom. It is also the source of the Kamchia which directly flows in the Black Sea. Although not so abundant in mineral waters as other parts of Bulgaria, there are several spas such as Varshets, Shipkovo and Voneshta Voda. There are a number of waterfalls, especially in the western and central parts of the range such as Raysko Praskalo which is the highest waterfall in the Balkan Peninsula, Borov Kamak, Babsko Praskalo, Etropole Waterfall, Karlovsko Praskalo, Skaklya and others.

The mountain is crossed by 20 passes and 2 gorges. There are paved roads crossing Stara Planina at the following passes (listed from west to east):
Petrohan Pass: Sofia - Montana
Iskar Gorge (Iskarski prolom ): Sofia - Vratsa (also railroad)
Vitinya Pass: Hemus motorway (A2), Sofia - Botevgrad
Beklemeto Pass: Troyan - Sopot
Shipka Pass: Gabrovo - Kazanlak (also railroad)
Pass of the Republic (Prohod na republikata): Veliko Tarnovo - Gurkovo
Vratnik Pass: Elena - Sliven
Kotel Pass (Kotlenski prohod): Kotel - Petolachka (Pentagram) crossroads
Varbitsa Pass (Varbishki prohod): Shumen - Petolachka crossroads
Rish Pass (Rishki prohod): Shumen - Karnobat
Luda Kamchiya Gorge (Ludokamchiyski prolom): Provadiya - Karnobat (also railroad)
Aytos Pass (Aytoski prohod) - Provadiya - Aytos
Dyulino Pass (Dyulinski prohod): Varna - Aytos
Obzor Pass (Obzorski prohod): Varna - Burgas, future Cherno More motorway (A3)

Botev Peak 2376 m (7,795 ft), named after Hristo Botev.
Vezhen Peak 2198 m (7,211 ft)
Midzhur 2169 m (7,116 ft), the highest peak in Serbia and north-western Bulgaria, 12th in the Balkan Mountains.
Kom Peak 2016 m (6,614 ft)
Todorini Kukli 1785 m (5,856 ft)
Murgash 1687 m (5,535 ft)
Shipka Peak 1523 m (4,997 ft)
Buzludzha 1441 m (4,728 ft)
Balgarka Peak 1181 m (3,875 ft)
Levski Peak (named after Vasil Levski)
Vetren 1330 m (4,364 ft)


Stara Planina has a significant and special place in the history of Bulgaria since its foundation in 681. It was a natural fortress of the Bulgarian Empire for centuries and formed an effective barrier to Moesia where most of the Medieval capitals were located. The Balkan mountains were the site of numerous battles between the Bulgarian and the Byzantine Empires including the Battle of the Rishki Pass (759), Battle of the Varbitsa Pass (811), Battle of Tryavna (1190) and many others. In the battle of the Varbitsa Pass Khan Krum decisively defeated an enormous Byzantine army killing Emperor Nikephoros I. For many centuries the Byzantines feared that mountain and on several occasions Byzantine armies had pulled back only on the news of approaching Stara Planina.

During the Ottoman rule many haiduks found refuge in Stara Planina. Close to the highest summit, the Botev Peak, is Kalofer, the birth place of Hristo Botev, a Bulgarian poet and national hero who died in the Western Stara Planina near Vratsa in 1876 in the struggle against the Ottoman Empire. Also close to Botev peak is the Shipka Pass, the scene of the four battles in Russo-Turkish War, 1877-78 which ended Turkish rule in the Balkans. Close to the pass in the village of Shipka there is a Russian Orthodox church, built to commemorate Russian and Bulgarian bravery during pass defense.

Climbing Places



Vitosha is the most visited Bulgarian Mountain. It rises immediately above Sofia and is one of the symbols of our capital. Few are the big cities in the world, and capitals are even fewer, that possess such a natural advantage. Vitosha Mountain is the most significant part of the Plana-Zavala Mountain system. With its highest peak - Cherni Vrah (2290 m.) it occupies the fourth place among the Bulgarian moun- tains.
Vitosha is the cradle of hiking tourism in Bulgaria. The date 27 August 1895 is considered to be the beginning of the organized tourist movement in the country.

After the invitation of the renowned writer and democrat Aleko Konstantinov 300 men and women then climbed Cherni Vrah - something incredible and unbelievable in those times. Since then thousands of hikers climb the peak every year on this day.
Vitosha is a typical dome-like mountain - one of the few in Bulgaria. It has a slightly pro- longed profile from the northwest to the south- east. It consists primarily of granite rocks, but there are Karst rocks as well especially in the Southern part. A unique natural phenomenon are the so-called "stone rivers" (moreni) - piles of huge rounded granite stones on many of the river valleys reaching up to 2 km in length and 50 m in width. Especially expressive and beautiful are the "Moreni" in the area of Golden bridges (Zlatnite mostove). Similar phenomena can be seen in other Bulgarian mountains too, the Vitosha Moreni however being unique. They are the symbol of the mountain.
Since 1935 a meteorological station has been operating on Cherni Vrah, with many posts, mostly in the chalets. Comparative data about Sofia and Cherni Vrah weather conditions: the average monthly and annual temperature - for the coldest month - January - in Sofia is minus 1.7° and on Cherni Vrah - minus 8.3°. For the warmest month - July in Sofia - 21.2° and for Cherni Vrah - August - 9.0°C. The average annual temperature in Sofia is 10.5°C and at Cherni Vrah - 0.3°C. There is an interesting phenomenon featuring the Vitosha climate - the inversion (mostly in December and January). When Sofia is covered by thick fog and cold, the Vitosha Mountain shines in sun and warmth. This happens at an average of 15 days per year. An average of 140 days per year are very cold on Cherni Vrah - the maximum values in these days are negative and there are 222 frosty days (when only the minimum temperatures are negative). The winter in the high parts of the mountain lasts between 5 and 7 months, and truly summer months are only July and August.

The average precipitation rate on Cherni Vrah (mostly snowfalls) is 1178 I per sq. m and June is the most rainy month - 1421 per sq. m. while September has the lowest precipitation figure - 71 I per sq. m. The biggest snow coverage is formed in March. Cherni Vrah is quite inhospitable, having an average of 250 foggy days in the year and only 50 clear ones and it is one of most windy peaks in Bulgaria. With an average wind speed of 9,3 m/s it occupies the second place among the monitored peaks after the Murgash Peak in Stara Planina (10.3 m/s) and before Botev Peak (9,1 m/s) and Musala (7,6 m/s). Only 7 per cent of the days on Cherni Vrah are windless.

Clockwise, the borders of the mountain are as follows: to the North and Northeast - the Sofia Plain, to the West - the Egulo-Palakari Saddle (1195 m) separates the mountain from the Plana Mountain; to the South it reaches to the Samokov Plain, and the Buka Preslav Saddle (1090m) separates it from Verila, the next to the west is the Pernik Plain, and to the north- west the border with the Lyulin Mountain passes through the Vladaya Saddle (860m above sea level). Vitosha has an area of 278 sq. km - 18 and 20 km in length and width. In spite of its expressly compact nature, the mountain is conditionally divided into 4 main ranges - Northern, Eastern, southwestern and northwestern.
The slopes of the Northern range descend steeply to the Sofia plain above which dominates the Kamen Del Peak (1862 m) after which this range is also called the "Kamendel range". In its turn it is divided into four parts: Vladaya (without expressed peaks, but one of the most popular tourist sites - Zlatnite mostove is located here), Knyazhevo (here the highest peak of the sector is Lavcheto - 2052 m, as well as the peaks - Sredetz (1969 m), Chernata Skala (1869m), Kopitoto (1348m with the TV- tower), Dragalevtsi -with the two-headed al- pine peak - Kominite (1620), Ushite (1960), Kamen Del and others) and Simeonovo. There is a Gondola lift to the Aleko challet. The Eastern part, also called Kupenski, borders the Plana Mountain. Some of the highest and well known peaks are here - Golyam Rezen (2277 m - the second after the Cherni Vruh), Malak Rezen (2191 m), the interesting Golyam Kupen (1930). The eastern edges of the Rezen peaks are particularly expressive - they offer a site for Alpine rock climbing. Under this crown of peaks spreads the reserve "Bistrishko branishte". The well-known Vitosha resort and ski centre Aleko is located in the Eastern part as well.

The southwestern range is the largest but least visited in the mountain. It borders the Verila Mountain. It is subdivided into three parts - the Vetren part is the most Eastward with the high peaks Skoparnik (2226 m), Kupena (2195), Siva Gramada (2003); The middle part - Petruska which is the lowest with its peak Petrus (1454); and to the West end is the Bosneshka part with its flat, and low watershed, where the highest peak is Krasta (1561 m); the longest cave in Bulgaria - Duhlata is located here as well as the interesting Karst water spring - Jivata voda.

The city below is Sofia

The Northwestern part borders the Lyulin Mountain and is called Silimishki. The ridge beginning at the Samara peak (2108 m) and then continuing with the peaks Silimitca (2014), Ostretc (1836) and Ostritca (1696) dominates it. To the North of the ridge is the specific Vladaiski Cherni Vrah (1641). The four main ranges of the mountain pile together to Cherni Vrah peak (2290m) as a true centre of the mountain.
Part of the Balkan watershed, dividing the basins of the Black Sea and the White Sea passes along the mountain. The south-western rivers flow to river Struma and then to the White Sea, while the Eastern, Northern and some of the Western - through Iskar river and then the Danube flow to the Black Sea. The longest and biggest river taking its rise from the Vitosha Mountain is Struma. Its total length is 415 km, 290 of which - on Bulgarian territory. Matnitza, Kladnishka and Ftudarshtitza rivers are among its biggest tributaries from Vitosha. Among the bigger rivers flowing to Iskar are Palakaria (39 km long), Valchi Dol, Selskata (Jeleznishka) river, Bistrishka (Stara river, Yanchevska river, Simeonovska river, Dragalevska river, Boyanska river, Perlovska river and Vladaiska river. There are no lakes in Vitosha. There were lakes in the past but they have been drained due to ore mining. A lot of artificial reservoirs have been built in the lower parts of the mountain near the resort villages, the most beautiful among which is the Boyana reservoir (1906).

The year 1934 saw the establishment of the first national park in the area of Vitosha aimed at preserving for the next generations the beauties of the mountain. Vitosha, nevertheless, has been developed. There are more than 100 lodging places with almost 6000 beds (not counting beds provided in near-by villages), two Gondola lifts, numerous chair lifts, catering facilities, mountain shelters, kilometers of asphalt roads. All these are concentrated mainly along the northern slopes of the mountain, facing Sofia.

There are two main tourist centres - Aleko and Zlatnite mostove (The Golden Bridges). The first is at about 1800 above sea level in the Eastern part of the mountain and is one of Bulgaria's biggest ski centres. There are several hotels - the 3 stars "Prostor" (phone.: 02/ 67 11 72, 73, 74, fax: 02 671158, the same phone for "Moreni"), 3-stars "Aglika" (02/67 28 70), 2-stars "Moreni" (02/67 10 59, the same fax as "Prostor"), and "Shtastlivetza" (presently under reconstruction). There is also a tourist chalet Aleko with 88 beds in 3 suits and rooms of 2, 3, 4, 8 and more beds. The price per bed is 3-5 DM (phone,: 02/67 11 13). The chalet is the starting point of the Bulgarian section of the European hiking route E-4. Above it is the huge slope Stenata, one of the biggest natural ski tracks in Bulgaria. Of course there are lots of facilities to add to the comfort of skiers - elevators, snowlevelling trucks, special marking, etc. Near-by shops, cafes, restaurants offer wonderful opportunities for pleasant stay. Behind the chalet is the office of the Mountain Rescue Brigade (phone: 02/967 11 55). Aleko is also the starting point for climbing the highest peak of Vitosha -Cherni Vrah. The steep climb, at a difference of altitude of approximately 500 m. typically takes 1,5 hrs., and for those who think it is difficult, there is an elevator to the peak Malak Rezen, from where they can proceed along a flat route and reach the dreamed peak in 30 min. only. All routes to the peak are marked by high metal pickets or pass by ski facilities, thus reducing to the maximum the possibility of one getting lost. Still it is not recommended to climb the peak in bad weather!

On the peak itself, besides the meteorological station and the base of the Mountain Rescue Brigade (phone: 02/967 11 28), there is a tourist station where one can find shelter in bad weather (no beds however). Tea and cold food are also offered. Marked hiking tracks start from Aleko: to Zlatnite Mostove (2-3 hrs., passing through the Plateau, chalet Bor, chalet Tintyava, Chalet Momina Skala, chalet Septemvri), to the student base Akademic (1.5-2 hrs.), to the village of Bistritza (1.5-2 hrs.), to Sofia quarter Simeonovo (1.5-2 hrs.), to quarter Dragalevtzi (1.5-2 hrs.), to chalet Prespa (30 min).

The area of Aleko chalets

Besides on foot, from the villages and quarters mentioned above one can reach Aleko by car - 16 km on a road starting from quarter Dragalevtsi, or by regular bus line No 66 starting from quarter HIadilnika; by chair-lift "Bai Krustyo-Goli Vrah, whose first station is above Dragalevtzi and can be reached with bus line No 93 starting in quarter HIadilnika, or bus K° 64 and then 20 minutes walk from the central square of Dragalevtsi; by a sophisticated cabin elevator Simeonovo, starting in the village of Simeonovo, to which one can take bus line 122 from HIadilnika and 123 from Durvenitsa.
Zlatnite Mostove (Golden Bridges) is the other popular tourist centre, located at an altitude of 1400 m. above sea level in the Vladaya part of the Northern range of Vitosha. Most notorious here is the phenomenon we mentioned above - the "moreni". In old times this was a place where gold was washed out of the sands, hence the name of the place. The hotel restaurant Zlatnite Mostove is under re- construction now. Around it there are numerous pavilions, shops, cafes, rest houses, children playgrounds. Zlatnite Mostove is also a starting point to Cherni Vrah (about 3 hrs.), which route passes by one of the oldest and most beautiful chalets - Kumata (1 hr.) and the ski centre Konyarnika, which is 15-20 min. walk above the chalet. There are marked hiking routes in other directions as well: the chalets Planinarska Pesen, Borova Gora and Boeritsa (1 hr), the chalets Edelvais and Zvezditza (1.5 hrs.), chalet Ostritsa (1 hr.) and chalet Selimitsa (yet another 1 hr), passing by chalet Trendafila, chalet Bor (45 min.), chalets Septemvri (25 min), Momma Skala (30 min), Rodina (35 min) and Tintyava (40 min.), the chalets Sredets (40 min.),

Esperanto (45 min), Kamen del (1 hr.), Planinets (45 min) shelter Kikish (1.15 hrs), chalet Belite Brezj (0.15 hr.) and Sofia quarter Knyajevo (1 5 hrs.), quarter Vladaya (1 hr), the peak Kopitoto with a TV tower (1 hr). There are signs showing all tracks, and occasionally - information boards. Besides on foot from Sofia quarters Knyajevo and Vladaya, to Zlatnite Mostove one can also drive along a 14 km road, starting in Sofia quarter Boyana. A city bus line No 61 and 261 is also available starting in Sofia quarter Ovcha Kupel (by Stadium Slavia).

There are two stations of the Mountain Rescue Brigade in the area of Zlatnite Mostove - near chalet Tintyava (phone: 02/ 957 47 03) and in the area called Ofeliite. Another, smaller tourist centre is the Kopitoto (1350 m. above sea level). - in the Knyajevo part of the Northern range with a TV tower, newly built hotel-restaurant, shops, etc. The cabin elevator starting from Knyajevo reaches this place, bus line 62 from Ovcha Kupel is also available. It takes 1,5-2 hrs. walk from Knyajevo and about 1,5 hrs. from Boyana to reach the area. Marked tracks to Zlatnite Mostove start here (1 hr.), the chalet Planinets (0.40 hrs.), Momma Skala (0.45 hrs.), Esperanto (0.40 hrs.), etc.
A small tourist centre is formed around chalet Selimitsa (1300 m above sea level), in the northwestern range of the mountain. There are several rest houses and restaurants there. It takes a15 minutes walk from there to reach the interesting Monastery Saint Nicolas. Marked tracks lead to chalet Ostritsa (1 hr), chalet Edelvais (1,5 hrs.), peak Selimitsa (1,5 hrs.), peak Cherni Vrah (2.5-3 hrs), the village of Chuipetliovo (2.5-3 hrs.). A starting point for this tourist centre is the village of Kladnitza (3 km. road, 1 hr. walk along the road and then along a marked path). The village of Kladnitsa is 22 km. away from Sofia and is connected to it by bus line No 60, starting from quarter Ovcha Kupel, and 16 km. away from Pernik, with which it is also connected with a regular bus line. 3 km. before Kladnitsa is the resort village of Rudartzi with an open-air mineral water pool.
All tourist chalets in Vitosha (about 15) offer lodging the price for which is 6-8 DM, and tasty dishes from the Bulgarian cuisine. The marked tracks are typically broad alleys, very good for mountain hiking. There are two special ski tracks down the hill (Aleko- Dragalevski Monastery and peak Ushite - Knyajevo). Small resort villages, some of which are Sofia suburbs now, surround almost the whole mountain. Chuipetlovo, Bosnek, Kladnitza, Rudartzi, Marchevo, Vladaya, Knyajevo, Boyana, Dragalevtzi, Simeonovo, Bistritza, Jeleznitza, Yarlovo are starting points to the mountain, connected with Sofia and Pernik with regular bus lines, and offering lodging in family hotels and food in attractive restaurants.
There are a number of valuable historical monuments here, the most popular among them being the Boyana Church (1259), the frescos in which are the best of their kind in Europe retained from these early times. The church is included in the list of UNESCO of most valuable works of arts. It is open from 9 to 12 a.m. and from 1 to 5 p.m. with a lecture Tuesday through Saturday. Phone: 02/68 74 34. It is in the centre of Boyana (bus line W 64).
The Dragalevtzi Monastery was founded under the reign of King Ivan Alexander in the middle of the 14th century. During the Turkish yoke it was a centre of culture and dissent. Vassil Levski was often sheltered here and a secret revolutionary committee was established in the monastery in 1873. It is located 3 km. above the village of Dragalevtzi, on the road to Aleko. It is 30-40 min. walk from Dragalevtzi. It is open to visitors every day of the week.
The Church of Saint George in Bistritsa is located on the place where the main monastery of Sveta Gora was in the past. There are mineral water springs in some of the villages mentioned above - Rudartzi, Knyajevo, and Jeleznitza.
Even though it is smaller in area than the other high mountains in Bulgaria, Vitosha has a lot of attractive advantages - high and beautiful peaks, thick woods, many tourist sites, sufficient snow fall ensuring stable snow cover, pure air, hundreds of kilometers of well marked tracks, numerous lodging places and restaurants, comparatively well preserved nature, clean potable water, wonderful ski facilities, rich history. Adding to all these closeness to the biggest city, which is the capital city of Bulgaria - this explains why is this mountain visited and loved so much.